The CSO's latest figures reveal that 85% of Irish households now have an active internet connection. But is this a sign of progress or should the figure be higher?
How are you reading this? On a laptop? A smartphone? Maybe a tablet?
Whatever the device, you’re not reading it without an internet connection.
And according to the CSO’s latest figures, those without a connection are in an ever-shrinking minority in Ireland.
85% of Irish Households Have Internet Access…But What About the Other 15%?
85% of Irish households now have an active broadband connection, which is an increase of three percentage points on last year, and a rise of eighteen percentage points since 2009.
We’ve come a long way since then, but what of the 15% of Irish households that aren’t accessing the internet?
Well, nearly half of them don’t have the necessary skills to set up and use an internet connection and many others are happy living a disconnected life and simply don’t want internet access (or perhaps just want to avoid Star Wars spoilers!).
A few others cite the cost of set-up equipment and privacy concerns as their reasons for not getting online.
Is the 'Urban-Rural Divide' About to be Closed?
The main takeaway from the CSO’s figures is the news that just 0.8% of Irish households are without a broadband connection due to a lack of availability in their locality. This relatively low figure throws the often-cited notion of a broadband ‘urban-rural divide’ into question.
And with the Government’s National Broadband Plan pledging to have the entire country up-and-running with speeds of at least 30 Mbps by 2020, and with eir committed to providing superfast fibre connections to 80% of the country by the same year, Ireland’s ‘urban-rural divide’ is finally being bridged.
What Are We Doing Online?
So, there are a lot of us online, a lot of the time. But what are we actually getting up to while surfing the information superhighway?
Well, emailing is the most common online activity of Irish people, with 84% of people either checking or sending messages in the last three months. And use of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is the nation’s second favourite thing to do while online.
A massive 64% of Irish people use online banking services, with over half using the internet for activity relating to travel (hello, Ryanair.com!).
Despite the increasing popularity of heavy-duty online activities, such as watching Netflix, playing online games and streaming football matches, the most common activities are still relatively simple things like checking messages and managing money.
So, is Ireland in a Good Place?
2015 was an important year for the country’s broadband, with two key players, Eircom and UPC, re-branding as eir and Virgin Media, respectively.
These headline-grabbing moves were accompanied by promises of improved access, better service and great value. And the increased competition should spell good news for customers, both in terms of choice and price.
Eir announced its plans to offer speeds of 1 Gbps when it re-branded in September, with 23,000 homes and businesses across 15 communities getting immediate access.
Currently with eir, you can get unlimited 100 Mbps broadband, unlimited anytime calls to Irish mobiles and landlines and 54 digital TV channels for €33 a month for the first 6 months, rising to €85 a month thereafter.
Virgin Media’s arrival in Ireland saw the launch of Virgin Mobile and a lot of reminders that, at 240 Mbps, its broadband speed is the fastest that’s widely available in Ireland.
You can get this superfast speed from Virgin Media, along with over 50 TV stations and free calls to landlines and 400 international minutes for €70 a month.
Sky is the third player in the Tripleplay market in Ireland and is offering unlimited 100 Mbps broadband, over 50 TV channels and evening and weekend calls to landlines for €60 a month for 6 months and €79 a month from then on.
All of these packages are available for sign up on our Compare TV, Broadband and Home Phone page now.
Moving in the Right Direction
Just two-thirds of Irish households had internet access 2009, and the fastest speed available then was 24 Mbps, capped at 75 GB per month.
Although the issue of access is yet to be fully resolved, Ireland’s progress in terms of broadband availability, speed and price since then has been positive.
And to the folks who continue to resist getting a broadband connection in favour of a life lived offline...may the force be with you ;)